May is an especially good time to go on holiday from the UK, for two reasons. The more popular tourist destinations won’t yet be in peak season, and the warmer locations will only just be entering summer. You can enjoy a quieter holiday without the temperatures getting uncomfortably hot. Here are some of the most popular destinations for May.
SPOIL YOUR FAMILY
- Temperature: 33°C high; 10°C low
- How to get there from the UK: A 9-hour 20-minute direct flight from London.
- Why travel in May: Avoid the crowds before peak tourist season.
Orlando promises a special family holiday that your children will always remember. It’s packed with attractions, especially the Walt Disney World Resort – the original Disney Land. Here they can enjoy all the amazing rides and meet some of their favourite cartoon and movie characters. You’ll have a ball too. May is a great time to visit before the US tourist season kicks off.
There is also the Universal Theme Parks, a mix of a theme park with thrilling rides and an interactive film studio. The Islands of Adventure are themed to match iconic movies, like Suess Island, Marvel Superhero Island, Toon Lagoon, and, of course, Jurassic Park. And no one will want to miss the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You can go on the Hogwarts Express and refresh yourself with a mug of Hogsmeade.
SeaWorld Orlando has huge aquariums showcasing everything from orcas to penguins. There’s a dolphin nursery and you can pet the adults in the dolphin feed pool. For more thrills, the complex has rides like the Kraken Virtual Reality Coaster and the Mako Hyper Coaster. Seeing as you’ll be visiting on the cusp of summer, the kids can also have fun on refreshing water rides.
SIXT’s top tip: Visit SeaWorld on a Friday or Saturday night and you’ll also be treated to a spectacular fireworks display that lights up the whole park.
- Temperature: 25.5°C high; -3°C low
- How to get there from the UK: A 2-hour 10-minute flight from London.
- Why travel in May: All vestiges of the winter chill have gone.
You probably don’t associate Vienna with children’s activities, given its reputation as a centre of fine arts and culture. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find that it has some of Europe’s most illustrious children’s attractions. The warmer daytime weather in May will let you get out and about as much as you like.
Start your itinerary by taking the family to the oldest amusement park in the world, the Prater Amusement Park. Entrance is free; you only have to pay for the rides. The Wiener Riesenrad Ferris Wheel and the World’s Highest Chain Carousel are the highlights. After that, you can visit the oldest zoo in the world, Schönbrunn Zoo. Then there are the museums, offering a spectrum from brain food to mouth-watering treats.
It will be a toss-up between the Zoom Children’s Museum and the Chocolate Museum as to which your kids will choose first. There’s also the fascinating Museum of Technology. And you can visit the Aqua Terra Zoo or the Butterfly House – the latter is hugely popular with little ones. Time Travel Vienna is an immersive historical experience.
SIXT’s top tip: Prater Amusement Park also has unusual activities like turbo boats and ejection seats. You can get refreshments at cafés and snack bars.
- Temperature: 30°C high; 8°C low
- How to get there from the UK: A 4-hour 30-minute flight from London.
- Why travel in May: The island’s famed flora comes to life in spring.
This seaside resort on the west coast of Cyprus isn’t only a great place to soak up early summer sun – it was also named a European Capital of Culture in 2017. The island is a wonderful place for flora and fauna, and there’s no better time to visit than during late spring.
To best appreciate the indigenous flowers and wildlife, drive to the Akamas Peninsula. You’ll also find the best hiking trails here. By visiting in May you’ll have arrived early enough to avoid the summer tourist rush, so it will be easy to reach the town’s main attractions without getting caught up in the throng.
You can think of Paphos as a town of two halves, each comprising landmarks for different tourist tastes. If you’re into ancient history and archaeology, head to neighbourhoods on the harbour side of town, particularly Kato Paphos. To visit the museums, choose the Ktima side of town. A highlight is the Folk Art Museum in the Fyti district.
The Paphos Archaeological Site is the largest of its type, known for the House of Dionysius with its intricate mosaic pavements. The most famous mosaic in the complex depicts the triumphant Greek god in a leopard-drawn chariot.
SIXT’s top tip: You can take the fabled Mediterranean seaside walk at Paphos Coastal Boardwalk that takes you from Louis Phaethon Beach Resort to Paphos Fort.
- Temperature: 20°C high; 15°C low
- How to get there from the UK: A 2-hour flight from London.
- Why travel in May: Visit the Fantasy and Hobby Market Fair at Porto Antico.
A legendary Italian city founded in the 10th century, Genoa was a major mercantile centre of the Renaissance. You’ll find this reflected in its rich architecture and cultural landmarks, which gave the city its unofficial moniker, La Superba. Christopher Columbus lived here during his childhood and you can still visit the original house, Casa di Colombo.
The Fantasy and Hobby Market Fair is an annual gathering of exhibitors, teachers, and retailers where you can attend exhibitions, courses, and workshops on all manner of manual arts and handicraft. It’s held in the cotton warehouses at Porto Antico on the city waterfront. The Cathedral of San Lorenzo is another big tourist attraction, on Piazza Matteotti. Santa Maria di Castello is another, built in the 12th century on Castello Hill.
You can visit Italy’s biggest aquarium, Acquario di Genova. It’s at the Edutainment centre on the waterfront. There’s also a huge biosphere containing a tropical garden. Make a day of it and explore the whole harbour area that stretches some 14 miles. There’s a maritime museum there too. Boat trips are available, and you can go fishing, sailing and diving. By May, the weather will be ideal for these excursions.
SIXT’s top tip: For an unforgettable experience on the Med, book a whale-watching boat tour from Genoa Harbour. You’ll spend about four hours out on the water with these wonderful creatures.
ICONIC EUROPEAN CITIES
- Temperature: 19.5°C high; 9°C low
- How to get there from the UK: 1 hour 35 minutes from Heathrow.
- Why travel in May: Watch or take part in the Geneva Marathon, open to casual runners.
Keen runners can look forward to the Geneva Marathon. There are eight events to enter, including the main race, with all money raised going to UNICEF. You can run a half-marathon, or take part in the marathon relay with friends. Many of Geneva’s main attractions are on the waterfront of Lake Geneva. There are gardens and parks or make the most of the lake by taking a boat trip. It will be warm enough by May to comfortably enjoy it.
You’ll find some of the locals’ favourite cafés and restaurants at Place du Bourg-de-Four, in Geneva’s Old Town. It’s also the city’s oldest town square. While you’re in the oldest part of the city you can also see the 12th-century Cathedral of Saint-Pierre, one of the city’s main architectural landmarks. Beneath the building is an underground labyrinth built as sanctuaries by 4th-century Christians.
Art and culture enthusiasts can head to Geneva’s museum of art and history, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire. It covers everything from archaeology to fine art, spanning the entire Mediterranean region from Greece to Africa. To view Geneva’s most famous modern landmark, go to Bains des Pâquis. It is the best viewpoint for the Jetée des Eaux-Vives, a water jet spouting almost 500 feet into the air.
SIXT’s top tip: Visit the Patek Philippe Museum to take a trip through the illustrious history of Swiss watchmaking. There are watches from as far back as the 1500s. The museum also showcases historical examples from Turkey and China.
- Temperature: 17°C high; 9°C low
- How to get there from the UK: A 1-hour flight from London or a 4-hours train journey.
- Why travel in May: Every year art lovers from around the world gather here for the Amsterdam Art Fair.
Amsterdam offers plenty in May, from music to art and food. The Rollende Keukens (Rolling Kitchens) festival is one big picnic where you can taste all the flavours of Holland, accompanied by live music. The Diynamic Festival is an international celebration of electronic music that draws the young and hip from across Europe.
The Amsterdam Art Fair also happens in May. Almost 50 galleries in the city take part. The focus is on the latest Dutch artists, along with featured international guest exhibits. The Rijksmuseum is one of the most popular attractions in the Netherlands. It contains virtually the entire country’s collection of art and antiquities in its more than 250 rooms. The Van Gogh Museum is another huge tourist drawcard.
To get a real taste of daily Amsterdam life, head to the Jordaan neighbourhood. It’s a mix of diverse markets, cafés, and restaurants. Here you’ll find the Amsterdam Cheese Museum and the famous Anne Frank House. Go there on a Saturday when Lindengracht becomes a big open-air market. Otherwise, Monday sees the Westerstraat filled with over 200 flea market stalls.
SIXT’s top tip: Families with children can visit Vondelpark. It has playgrounds and plenty of activities like rollerblading. There’s also a rose garden with over 70 varieties and an open-air theatre.
- Temperature: 22°C high; 12°C low
- How to get there from the UK: A 3-hour 45-minute flight from London.
- Why travel in May: The annual Printemps des Comédiens is a month-long comedy festival that starts in May.
You’ll have arrived just in time for the start of the renowned warm weather of the south coast of France. Take advantage of the relative lack of crowds at this pre-season time to relax on the golden sands, unhindered by the annual tourist rush. May’s highlight is Printemps des Comédiens, the spring comedy festival. You can watch over 20 live shows, including stand-up, circus artists, visual arts, and interpretive dance.
Montpellier is in the Languedoc region, famous for its vast sandy beaches. The closest beach to the city centre is Carnon-Plage. It offers great sunbathing and lots of room for ball games and other seaside activities. A smaller beach that’s ideal for a quick morning swim is Plage de La Plagette. You can also get full value from your hire car and drive roughly 19 miles to Plage de l’Espiguette, known as one of the finest beaches in all of France.
Continuing the aquatic theme, you can visit Planet Ocean at the city’s Port Marianne. It’s a great place to take the kids, featuring immersive activities like a storm simulator and a touch pool. Species from all over the globe are represented, from iguanas to sharks. Or wander through Jardin des Plantes, Montpellier’s botanical garden. It dates back to the 1590s, making it one of the first in Europe, and is listed as a historical monument.
SIXT’s top tip: If you want an idea of upscale Montpellier life in medieval times, take a walk along the cobbled streets of Quartier Saint-Roche with its old “bohemian bourgeois” houses.
- Temperature: 25.5°C high; 18°C low
- How to get there from the UK: A 6-hour 45-minute flight from London.
- Why travel in May: May is the start of the non-rainy season and is still early enough in summer to be comfortably warm for UK visitors without getting too hot.
May is a relatively quiet time in Alexandria – there aren’t any major festivals or other annual events. This makes it a great month in which to visit if you’d like a more relaxed and peaceful trip. The city and its beaches are quieter and you can also explore a bit further inland before the summer desert temperatures rise too high for comfort.
Cleopatra Beach is the most well-known in the city and very popular with tourists. Visiting in May will ensure that you have plenty of space to yourself. Abu Qir Beach is a smaller one right up against the city buildings. It’s the best fishing spot. If you’re after the typical long, sandy Egyptian beach, head to Aida Beach in the north of Alexandria.
The city of Alexander the Great and Cleopatra has lots more to offer. Stroll along the Corniche and you’ll pass some of the most important historical addresses – both Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie stayed at the Steigenberger Cecil Hotel here. Or take your explorations underground at the Catacombs of Kom el-Shuqqafa. They were carved out of a hill in the 2nd century BCE in a combination of Egyptian and Greco-Roman designs. Nearby you’ll find Pompey’s Pillar, built-in 292 BCE and still completely intact.
SIXT’s top tip: Drive out to Aboukir, a small fishing village about 15 miles from Alexandria. It may be small, but it’s very historically significant. This is where Nelson defeated the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile.
- Temperature: 40.5°C high; 27°C low
- How to get there from the UK: A 12-hour 30-minute flight from London.
- Why travel in May: Visiting in May will allow you to explore before the heavy seasonal rain starts and the weather gets too muggy.
Agra is a city in northern India whose name is far overshadowed by its main tourist attraction, the Taj Mahal. If you visit in May you’ll be able to get a jump on the millions of travellers who visit the site each year. This UNESCO World Heritage Site needs no introduction.
Agra is also hardly a one-trick pony when it comes to tourist attractions. Akbar’s Mausoleum is a beautiful sandstone and marble creation in variegated colours. As you wander the surrounding Mughal-style gardens you’ll encounter peacocks, monkeys, and deer. Agra Fort is another World Heritage Site, a city within the city, much like the Vatican in Rome. This massive palace was the imperial city of the Mughal rulers.
To get an authentic sense of the original city of Agra, you can take a walking tour of the Old City. Sample the street food, as you stroll through an ancient way of life scarcely changed in modern times. And if you want to buy some of the marble and stone handicrafts that are a tradition of the city, head to Subhash Emporium.
SIXT’s top tip: About an hour’s drive from Agra is the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri. Made entirely from red sandstone, it’s been perfectly preserved since it was the capital of the Mughal Empire in the late 1500s.
- Temperature: 23°C high; 12°C low
- How to get there from the UK: A 2-hour 30-minute flight from London.
- Why travel in May: Open House Roma is when the city opens its private ancient-to-modern landmark buildings to tourists for one weekend only, in May.
Rome abounds with some of the most famous tourist attractions on the planet. What’s not so well-known about the city is its abundance of roses of many varieties. They’re in full bloom in May, making it a wonderful time to visit. One of the best places to appreciate them is the Roseto Rose Garden on Aventine Hill. There’s also the Rose Petal Ceremony at the Pantheon.
During the weekend of Open House Roma, you can see very well-preserved examples of Neoclassical- and Fascist-era historical buildings all over the city. Then head to Centro Storico, the historical centre of the city, with too many architectural attractions to list. If you’re a sports fan, the Italian Open is also held in Rome in May.
Of course, all of Rome’s other tourist highlights are open in May. You can visit the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine St, Peter’s Basilica, and the ruins of the ancient Roman Forum. The Vatican City and its famous Sistine Chapel are also almost mandatory places to see on a trip to Rome. Don’t forget to toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain as a pledge to return before you leave.
SIXT’s top tip: For something completely unusual, take the kids to the Gladiator School. The whole family can immerse themselves in ancient Roman culture for a couple of hours.